Last week, I waved my 18-year-old off as he embarked on the Aussie school leaver’s rite of passage – Schoolies!! A week spent kicking up your heels and living life to the max without any parental supervision at all! Oh, the sleepless nights many of us parents have had! And once Christmas and New Year celebrations are done, he’ll be heading away to University to ‘live his best life’ away from his dedicated cyber mother!
And of course, I’m delighted for him, although secretly devastated to be losing my baby boy. But it does prompt the question, am I now done with cyber parenting? Is my work here officially done?
Do You Ever Stop Being a Parent?
I remember when my kids were little, my mother shared some words of wisdom with me: ‘Alex, you never stop being a parent. The kids are the same, it’s just the issues that change.’ And she was so right. As our boys have grown up, we’ve been less involved in their day-to-day needs but still very much needed. Whether it’s to help review a work contract, provide advice on an issue with a flatmate or help pick out a suit, the parenting hasn’t stopped instead entered a new chapter. And of course, there’s no doubt that having interested, devoted parents at the end of the telephone – day or night – makes navigating life so much easier!
And when it comes to their digital lives, it’s the same story. While we have no reason to be involved in their day-to-day online lives, we have definitely been called upon to help them troubleshoot situations from receiving inappropriate messages, identifying potential scams or managing terse exchanges. And, might I add, I have also proactively offered my advice on the appropriateness of pictures they have shared online – many times!!
How To Help Your Young Adult Kids Manage Their Cyber Safety?
So, after having managed 3 kids through this transition to early adulthood with another one currently underway, I thought I’d share with you some of my best strategies for ensuring their digital life is in good shape without micro-managing them!
1. Stay Friends with Them Online But Don’t Embarrass Them Ever
Every few days, I’ll check out my boys’ socials. Not only does it give me a ‘feel’ for what’s happening in their lives – where they’ve been and who with – it also allows me to check they are making good decisions about what they share. There have been multiple times during this period where I have sent off a quick text suggesting they remove a photo or perhaps rephrase a comment! And while I know these texts aren’t always warmly received, in nearly all cases, they take my advice!
And it goes without saying that your ability to provide input to their digital lives will only happen if you don’t cross boundaries! So, never embarrass them. If you see something you don’t like, message them privately – do not workshop it on their Facebook page! And if you want to post a pic or video of them, always get their ‘ok’ first.
2. Buy Them Security Software for Christmas!
OK, security software probably won’t be top of their Christmas list, but knowing that they have comprehensive security software like McAfee’s Total Protection on their devices which works hard in the background to minimize threats and issues will give you real peace of mind. This year, I’m buying my older boys an air-fryer and frypans for Christmas. Why not continue the pragmatic theme and invest in some software for them too?
3. Set Up A Family Messaging Group
About 4 years ago, I set up a family Messenger Group and it’s now something I absolutely treasure. We share pics of our cats and dog, potential family holiday dates, funny photos, and videos, and relevant news stories – particularly during COVID. But the other thing I like to share is reminders about important ‘tech stuff’, like changing passwords, when to update their Apple software or details about scams that are doing the rounds. Whether it’s Whats App, Telegram, or my personal favorite, Messenger, I strongly recommend establishing a family group chat as an effective way of covering off key issues with your young adult kids.
4. Don’t Stop Walking About Digital Reputation
With potential employers, partners, and even friends using Google to conduct their due diligence on you, digital reputation is everything. So, weaving constant reminders into conversations with your adult kids should still be a priority. Now, of course, some kids will instinctively ‘get this’ but others will need a few pointers. According to a 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees. So, why not encourage them to ‘Google’ themselves – and why not do yourself also? How you present online could mean the difference between being employed or unemployed!
So, if you have a school leaver in your family and you’re not sure whether your job is done, I’m here to confirm that you’ll still be required for a very long time! Whether they know it or not, our big kids will still continue to need a sprinkling of our wisdom and experience for years to come. And even though they may have fled the nest, remember you will always be one of their most influential role models. So, make sure your digital life is in good shape too because as American novelist James Baldwin shares: ‘Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.’
Till next time